FRIDAY, Oct. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- On Halloween, the scares are supposed to be imaginary. But, all too often, the make-believe fear becomes genuine anguish when children are injured, or even killed, when they're hit by cars or involved in other types of accidents.
"Research shows that children are actually four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other night of the year," said Olivia Long, program coordinator at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia.
The end of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday also means that most trick-or-treating will take place when it's dark, making it harder for drivers to spot excited, inattentive kids who may dart out into the road.
Long noted that on Halloween, many children don't pay attention to the pedestrian safety rules they may have learned at school or at home. Instead, they're thinking about seeing their friends, and about the treats they received at the last house, and the goodies they'll get at the next door they haunt.
"So, it's just a really dangerous night because there's so many kids on the road, and a lot of times, they're out there without their parents," she said.
Long said parents can prepare their children to stay safe while having fun on Halloween by reminding kids to:
- Cross streets safely. Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Don't assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don't run, across the street.
- Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
- Be safe around cars. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Never run out into the street or cross between parked cars.
Even parents who are taking their children trick-or-treating need to educate their youngsters about traffic safety, Long said. Young children can dash out into the street in that split second that a parent may be distracted by the sights and sounds of Halloween.
To help drivers see them, children should carry flashlights or glow sticks and have reflective bags or reflective tape on their costumes. They should not wear masks that interfere with their ability to spot potential hazards.
Cars aren't the only threats to children on Halloween. Falls are another major cause of injuries.
"A lot of injuries do occur when kids are just running through people's lawns," and trip over or run into things such as garden hoses, lawn ornaments, and trees or branches, Long said.
She recommends that homeowners remove any potential hazards from their lawns, steps and porches and have enough outdoor lighting so children can see where they're walking.
One way to avoid potential danger and still have a cauldron full of fun is for neighborhoods to have their own private Halloween celebrations or for parents to take their children to community parties at schools or other locations, Long said.
Here's a grab bag of additional Halloween safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho:
- Children shouldn't eat treats before they've been inspected by an adult for signs of tampering.
- Purchase flame-resistant costumes.
- Children should never enter homes or apartments unless they're accompanied by an adult.
- Candlelit jack-o'-lanterns should be kept out of the way so there's no risk of igniting costumes. If jack-o'-lanterns are inside, keep them away from curtains, decorations, and other items that could catch fire.
- Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes and costumes that are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
- Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be made of a soft and flexible material.
- Teach children how to call 9-1-1 or their local emergency number in case they have an emergency or become lost.
- If older children are going alone, parents should plan and review a route with them and agree on a set time when they'll return home.
Finally, Prevent Blindness America offers these eye-safety tips.
- Creepy contact lenses, such as "snake eyes," have become popular in recent years. But it's still illegal to buy these contacts -- even if they're non-corrective -- without a prescription. Improper use and cleaning of contact lenses can lead to painful eye infections and even vision loss.
- False eyelashes and costume makeup can also irritate eyes. Follow the package directions carefully on how to apply and remove these products safely.
- Use only hypoallergenic or nontoxic makeup. Only adults should apply the makeup to children. Remove it with cold cream or eye makeup remover -- don't use soap.
- Don't use costume props or accessories such as spears, knives, swords, wands or pitchforks that have sharp edges or pointed ends.
The U.S. National Safety Council offers more Halloween safety tips.